Davide Frattini (Team Monex) and Lynn Gaggioli (T-Mobile) wrapped up the overall titles at La Vuelta de Bisbee Sunday morning despite both final stages being won by gutsy solo breakaways.
Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators) found a reserve of strength after having to contend for his top-three spot without team support and powered the infamous Tombstone Canyon climb for his solo win. In an almost 50-mile breakaway, two-year cycling veteran Michelle Beltran (Red 5 Racing), stormed up the final climb minutes ahead of the field to claim her stage win.
The day opened with GC leaders holding known, but not secure, advantages over the rest of the potential podiums. The long looping stage rolled first down away from town along open desert highways then back to the base of the 14-mile Mule Pass climb before finally turning up to the Tombstone Canyon finale.
An early break of three riders slipped off the front after only several miles in the women’s event. With more than 45 miles left in the race, the two team’s containing GC threats to overall leader and unsupported racer Lynn Gaggioli, didn’t have an investment in chasing it down.
Beltran, one of the three breakaway riders, who was 5:45 behind on GC at the start of the day, managed to get away from her breakmates. “A friend told me a few weeks ago that there’s magic in boldness,” she said of her mentality on the course. “I was thinking of that when I got away.”
Back in the main group sat Gaggioli, the Tamarack/Goldy’s team of second-placed Suz Weldon and Team Victory Brewing with third-placed Brooke Ourada.
“Because the break didn’t contain anyone from Goldy’s or Victory,” Gaggioli said, “the field kept sitting.”
So Beltran’s effort held.
In fact, she extended it on the road into dangerous territory, threatening GC at one point. “The officials told me the gap was up to five minutes,” said Beltran. “So I just kept doing all the things I thought the group wouldn’t do – power over climbs, press on the downhills.”
With no teammates to help, Gaggioli had to depend on others to bring the break back. Neither of the other podium contenders’ teams would work and Gaggioli found herself off the front too often, being marked for the climb and getting help only from random other riders.
That left Beltran, a former bodybuilder and fitness trainer who’s only been cycling competitively for two years, 2:54 up the road at the bottom of Tombstone Canyon. Beltran crossed the line far enough ahead for a two-handed salute and a pat on the back from almost every other finisher who came after, but with not quite enough time to overtake the general classification.
Gaggioli approached the final climb with all her rivals safely in sight, finishing well enough to secure the overall. The competent and tactical way in which she won Bisbee seems to indicate that she’s is, in fact, recovering properly and returning to form after an injury she sustained toward the end of last season. She will be rejoining some of her T-Mobile teammates for next week’s Tour of the Gila and will be seen later this year at the Joe Martin and Captech Classics.
In the men’s race, the gaps between the top-three GC spots were much tighter so control on the road was more critical. Davide Frattini’s Team Monex and Drew Miller’s Landis Trek/VW had the most at stake and were seen constantly patrolling the front of the field.
“The team worked hard all day to chase breaks,” Frattini said in fractured English. “There was more wind (on the highways) and it was more difficult.”
Miller’s team shared the load. “It was mostly a comfort thing (to stay at the front of the field). Keep me near the front. Keep things under control.”
The pressure from Monex and Landis Trek/VW kept the race together over the climb up Mule Pass. From there, riders had only the run up to the climb back into and up Tombstone Canyon.
It was at that point that Burke Swindlehurst decided that, as an unsupported rider, this might be his only chance to win. “I attacked about three miles out,” he said. “There was no time to take inventory (about who was close behind and how far back they were). I just gave it everything I had.”
A select group of about twelve riders, which contained Frattini and Miller, watched from behind. “Frattini played a really smart race,” Miller said. “I kept waiting for him to chase Burke.”
But Frattini knew that he didn’t have to beat Swindlehurst up the climb, just keep him within the 17-second advantage he held in GC. He knew the gaps because he, and every member on his team, had the numbers and times of the top dozen or so contenders taped to their stems. “All attacked, all jumped,” he said about the run up into town. “I chased but waited to the last kilometer.”
“Frattini lit it up the last 200 meters,” Miller said. Frattini only yielded eight seconds to Swindlehurst on the line — enough to hold on to the win by just three seconds. “He managed it beautifully,” Miller said.
Maybe with continued success like Frattini had in Bisbee, he’ll be able to reconcile the problem that put him in the U.S. in the first place – lack of a contract to race in his native Italy.
Race NotesYes, There Was a B Race
As well as the Elite men’s and women’s fields battling on the roadsin and through Bisbee, there was a 75-rider strong Master’s and Cat 3 andbelow B event. Team Honeywell Cycling and their designated GC leader, EricBrownell, controlled the race through every stage. He won the prologuetime trial and, with help from a large group of teammates, kept close controlon each stage.Brownell has been cycling for more than five years, competes with histeam throughout the West and is occasionally seen nationally in selectedevents (such as the road race national championships). His associationwith Honeywell Cycling, a Phoenix-based club team comprised of Honeywellemployees and some community members, began when he worked for what wasthen Allied Signal. “I was part of the founding team and love racing withthese guys,” he said.“I was in Bisbee last year in the A race. My friends said they wantedto race but needed a GC rider so I said ‘sure, I’ll ride the B race foryou guys.’” Brownell gathered up the leaders jersey on the first day andhis team never let him lose it. “We had fun. I’d love to do it again.”
Rainbow stripes in Bisbee
You may have noticed one conspicuously female name in the results of men’s race this weekend. Mari Holden (T-Mobile), who won the Olympic Silver Time Trial medal,the Time Trial World Championship and the U.S. National Time Trial Championshipsin 2000, was in Bisbee to get valuable training miles. By competing inthe men’s race, which she wasn’t here to contest she says, she gained greatermileage and avoided the competitive pressure that would have come fromracing alongside the fierce, 60-rider women’s field.Look for Holden at the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico nextweek, and at the National Championships in June where she’ll attempt toqualify for a 2004 Olympic spot.Stage 3 Results:
1. Burke Swindlehurst (Navigators)
2. Davide Frattini, Team Monex at 0:09
3. Drew Miller, Landis Trek/VW, 0:09Women
1. Michele Beltran, Red 5 Racing
2. Brooke Ourada, Team Victory Brewing, at 01:49
3. Kate Sherwin, s.t.Final overallMen
2. Swindlehurst, at 0:03
3. Miller, at 0:03Women
1. Lynn Gaggioli, T-Mobile
2. Ourada, at 0:49
3. Suz Weldon, Tamarack/Goldy’s, at 01:16.